Thursday, April 18, 2019

Octaman (Rifftrax Live)


Film Year:  1971
Genre:  Horror
Director:  Harry Essex
Starring:  OCTAMAN!, Pier Angeli, Kerwin Mathews, Jeff Morrow, David Essex, Read Morgan
Rifftrax Year:  2019
Riffers:  Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy, Bill Corbett
Featured Short:  "McGruff's Drug Alert"

The Short


Drugs probably aided the creation of Octaman, so McGruff the Crime Dog is here with a drug PSA to remind kids to just say no!  He follows kids around an lectures them on drug danger, comparing it to poison and warning about stranger danger, alluding that drug habits can lead to selling drugs, which is crime!  McGRUFF HATES CRIME!

I remember McGruff from when I was a kid, with all the commercials asking us "Help me take a bite out of crime!"  I'm not sure how much of a bite out of crime I took, but I think I turned out alright.  I hadn't seen McGruff in quite a while, this short was a trip down memory lane.  It's not ineffective, since McGruff was a character I think most kids liked and somewhat respected...until they grew up and stopped doing what the cartoon dog told them to do.  But if you're the right age, the message is received.



The Movie


From the co-writer of Creature from the Black Lagoon comes Creature from the Black Lagoon again...only awful this time.

This movie sees a group of scientists in Mexico researching mutated sea life.  They come across a mutated octopus species and experiment on it.  Unaware these are the children of the mutant Octaman, the title creature comes into camp and starts killing people.  The scientists then try to do whatever they can to capture the beast, but they may need to kill it before it kills them.

The elephant in the room is that Octaman costume, which is hilarious.  Technically Octaman has eight tenticles, but two of them are entirely immobile, two more are controlled by strings whenever the crew feels like making them move, while the other four have the suit actors limbs in them, but look just like arms and legs.  Meanwhile the head looks like a Funko Pop figure (I would die of laughter if Funko released an Octaman) and his entire look is a weird mixture of plastic and Styrofoam.  If I told you this was some of the first effects work by Rick Baker, you might shit yourself.

At times it feels as if the production is making due with what they have.  The film tries hard to be atmospheric and feels like it's attempting to frame things in an effective manner.  I'd like to think that limited resources were the culprit here, but there are too many other things going haywire.  The acting is stiff, weird, and often stereotypical.  The blocking of Octaman scenes are often confusing and poorly choreographed.  The film pads out scenes of searching for Octaman or stumbling around in a cave beyond reason, and the film can be tiresome.

But when I get a glimpse of that Octaman costume, the movie puts a smile on my face.  There are swell intentions in this movie put forth by people who don't know what the hell they're doing, and it results in trashy, goofy fun.  Octaman is a worthwhile monster from the garbage heap, and I'm happy I got to see his opus on the big screen.

Minor Note, this was the final film of its female lead, Pier Angeli, who died of a drug overdose during shooting (McGruff tried to warn her).  I doubt she wants to be remembered for having died while making Octaman, so remember her as the female lead opposite Paul Newman in Robert Wise's Somebody Up There Likes Me instead.



The Live Show


Rifftrax Live's 2019 lineup gets off to a rousing start with one hell of a find for the movie and some pretty solid, at times hilarious, riffing.  This first one out the gate sets a pretty high bar for the rest of the year.

But first they test the mutated octopus waters with the McGruff short, which isn't as solid as other drug PSA's they've done, like Drugs Are Like That (which gets a cute reference), but stands on its own.  McGruff gets a lot of the quips because he's a beloved character that they've never tackled before, as gleefully point out a kid think's he's tripping on something in this PSA because he's seeing a talking, anthropomorphic dog.  There are a few dog quips here, including a "red rocket" joke, and the guys get confused about his catch phrase when he starts talking about poison:  Help me take a bite out of poison?

When Octaman starts playing, the audience lights up.  This is the type of cheese us riffing fans live for, and the movie gives us the title character straight away, marching his way through the opening credits ("Scenes like this are why we had to show this one on the big screen!").  We can tell this is going to be a goofy one, and bring it on!  The riffing is at its highest when Octaman shows up, with quips like "Bela Lugosi fought an octopus with more dignity!" and "It's like Tim Burton designed a Sesame Street character!"  The action then gets absurd, as the rubbery tentacles do crazy amounts of damage, as the guys wonder how it's possible a tentacle could stab somebody.

The main flaw with the feature is that laughs and interest in general can take a nosedive when our beast isn't onscreen.  This is when the padding of the film is at its most plentiful, and it can start to get frustrating as we watch unlikable characters mosey around.  The guys seem to realize the tediousness and set up a skit where Bill gets fed up and walks off the stage, which reminded me of a similar bit where Kevin was "fired" during the House on Haunted Hill live show, only with less Paul F. Thompkins.  I got a good laugh out of Mike and Kevin just shrugging it off.  "Did Bill just quit Rifftrax?  Yeah, you'll get that."

Octaman is the most fun I've had at a live show since Samurai Cop.  Part of it is that I thrive on weird finds like this movie, but the riffing caused me to throw my head back and laugh at the best of times.  The few slow spots prevent me in calling a great experience, but it's one worth watching.

Good


Sunday, April 14, 2019

The Changeling (The Last Drive-In)


Film Year:  1980
Genre:  Horror
Director:  Peter Medak
Starring:  George C. Scott, Melvyn Douglas, and Casper the Not-So-Friendly Ghost

The Movie

No, not the Angelina Jolie flick directed by Clint Eastwood.  This film called The Changeling is supposedly based on actual events accounted by the screenwriter, in which George C. Scott rents a mansion after the death of his family for some brooding time.  It turns out that there is a spirit of a little boy haunting this empty place, and he won't stop banging on the walls until Scott solves his murder-by-drowning-in-a-bathtub.

The Changeling's scare factor is heavily influenced by The Haunting, and the ghost featured is largely present through pounding noises and the random moving object.  The film is often lucky enough to offer a well-placed jolt to help enhance the heebie jeebies, though sometimes it can be a bit heavy with its attempts.  The first haunting noises in the film sound like someone in the hallway just pounding a really large drum just to be annoying.  The film might have been best grabbing the audience in more subtle ways that early on instead of just demanding their attention ASAP.

Other than that, this is a very casually paced movie that is trying to intrigue with a mystery as it unfolds.  The Changeling succeeds largely because of a strong atmosphere of tension backing it up.  The story is fairly engaging as it throws another plot point out just when the pace threatens to slow down a bit too much.  If you love restrained spookfests, The Changeling is worth a watch.


The Drive-In

Following up DEATHGASM with The Changeling on this week's double feature might prove to be a mistake in pacing, as DEATHGASM is so hyperactive and nonstop that the more carefully plotted film following it up can deflate the energy in the room somewhat.  I enjoyed both movies about equally for different reasons, but if The Changeling had came first this week and we started with a tension build, then just utterly letting loose with DEATHGASM would have felt satisfactory and earned.  Instead, The Changeling just kind of feels buried.

Joe Bob seems to admire this movie and the talent that made it (Darcy looks a bit underwhelmed by it, though).  He has a lot of stories to tell about George C. Scott, Melvyn Douglas, and director Peter Medak.  The director he especially gets into the nitty gritty with, as he admires the longevity of his career and his diversity, right down to his later documentaries.  This also leads into a Joe Bob rant about CourtTV turning into TruTV, which isn't to be missed.

Speaking of rants, this episode opens with a glorious Joe Bob venting session about whiskey, which sent me into a non-stop gigglefit.  That paired with his dissection of the supposed "true" story this film is based and why it reeks of bullshit probably make the episode.  Meanwhile, Darcy's viewer mail this week sees a viewer sending Joe Bob "beer soap," making this a definite one to watch beginning to end.  However this might be a stronger one to watch without the previous feature as a lead-in.  The Changeling should have been the foreplay.  DEATHGASM should have been...the obvious.

Joe Bob's Rating
⭐⭐⭐1/2

DEATHGASM (The Last Drive-In)


Film Year:  2015
Genre:  Comedy, Horror
Director:  Jason Lei Howden
Starring:  Milo Cawthorne, James Blake, Kimberley Crossman, Sam Berkley, Daniel Cresswell

The Movie


Folks, this is motherfucking DEATHGASM, all caps because "Lowercase is for pussies."  If you ever wondered what if Evil Dead and Diary of a Wimpy Kid had a demonic love child that listened to a lot of heavy metal once it hit puberty, it's this movie.  This film has a student heavy metal band named DEATHGASM accidentally playing music that opens the gates of hell and unleashes demons to possess their entire town.  Since Bruce Campbell isn't around, they have to fend off these demons themselves.

DEATHGASM is obviously an homage to the crazy gorefest work of Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson's early careers, and infuses it with a love for metal.  The film stars former Power Rangers Milo Cawthorne and Kimberley Crossman as the main couple of the film, but unfortunately they left their Power Morphers at home and weren't able to combat the demons with their zords.  But imagine what THAT movie would have been!

But what's here is a very gooey movie with a lot of blood coming out of every orifice (and I mean every), with a lot of humor to let the audience know this is all good fun.  It's one of the few films that attempts to kill demons with dildos and vibrators (and honestly, death by sex toy is how I personally want to go), and there is a pretty hilarious gag early on where chief bad guy isn't happy with a beheading, so he has his lackeys put the head back on and do it again.  If you love "fuck it, we're going balls to the wall" in your horror comedy, DEATHGASM probably needs to hit your TV at least once.

Probably the one dealbreaker might be whether you're into heavy metal music or not.  I'm not a huge metalhead myself, which I think is holding me back from genuinely loving this film.  But I imagine horror and metal walk hand-in-hand, so I'm probably a minority.  Those who love it will need to see this movie at some point.


The Drive-In


The Drive-In Totals are insane tonight, and hearing Joe Bob describe what's going to happen in this movie makes one think to oneself "He's got to be exaggerating."  But he isn't.  This movie genuinely has "Rubber Dildo and Anal Beads Fu."  This has to be Joe Bob's dream film, because it's so much of what he loves to share on this show.

A lot of Joe Bob's commentary falls back on New Zealand tidbits, where it was filmed, probably because a lot of the crew on this film hasn't made another major movie.  He does point out the Power Rangers cast and asks what is up with Power Rangers and this movie.  Well, if I may answer that, New Zealand has been the filming location for Power Rangers' English footage for about fifteen years, so a sizable amount of young New Zealand actors have a link to the franchise.

All of this and some rants as well.  His opening this week is about how douchey a car the Tessla is, and it's pretty hilarious (and remember, the most important question when looking for a car is "Does this car kick ass?").  He and Darcy briefly get into a shade match about veganism ("You don't eat meat?  That's so fucking California!").  Joe Bob also holds back on some trivia because some rando might prove him wrong because "People just love to make me look like an idiot."  Joe Bob isn't perfect, but without him I might not have watched DEATHGASM, so I love him anyway.

The cherry on top of this episode is a phone call Joe Bob makes to Sleepaway Camp actress Felissa Rose, because they watch a zombie penis get chopped off by a weedwhacker in this movie and he wants the "expert on mutilated dicks."  It's an absurd moment that compliments an absurd movie.

Joe Bob's Rating
⭐⭐⭐⭐

Sleepaway Camp (The Last Drive-In)


Film Year:  1983
Genre:  Horror
Director:  Robert Hiltzik
Starring:  Felissa Rose, Felissa Rose's genitalia, Mike Kellin, Katherine Kamhi, Paul DeAngelo, Johnathan Tiersten, Karen Fields, Christopher Collet

The Movie


Well, this movie was pretty fucked.

This is a horror movie about a killer stalking a summer camp that isn't that other horror movie about a killer stalking a summer camp.  The primary story revolves around a girl named Angela who lost her family in a boating accident when she was younger and grows up traumatized.  She then is sent to camp with her cousin, but finds herself an outcast because of her quiet nature.  But the campers and counselors who are mean to her all wind up dying one-by-one.  Who is responsible?

Sleepaway Camp was released in one of the few years in the 1980's that didn't have a Friday the 13th film, so it fills that much needed summer camp killer void in 1983.  While I'm no Friday the 13th fan, I can't deny that Sleepaway Camp is a much more poorly made film.  And yet, for some reason I like it a lot more.  So much of this movie is so insane that I couldn't take my eyes off of it.  It went to some places I couldn't believe it would go, including a pedophile camp chef who tries to molest our main character, who is even open about being a pedophile and his coworkers act all "Oh you!"  I would almost be offended if the movie felt like it at any time was trying to be a real movie.  The script is hamfisted, and the acting is full of scenery chewing, as just about every actor in this movie has at least one chance to go zero-to-sixty on their overacting with ridiculous dialogue.

And that's not even mentioning the big SPOILER of this movie.  So...this movie kinda has an infamous ending.  I personally heard what the ending was before watching it just now, I don't fully think knowing it ahead of time takes away from it.  But for those of you who don't know what it is, you may want to stop reading, because so much of what can be said about Sleepaway Camp has to do with the ending.  You can also skip the Drive-In section too, because I'll be talking about it there too.  Just log off and watch Sleepaway Camp.  It'll be worth your time.

You gone or still here?  Good.

Holy shit, that ending did not disappoint.

Long story short, Angela is the killer.  And she has a penis.  And her penis made her psychotic?  It turns out Angela is actually the brother of the little girl we assumed she was in the prologue and he was the only survivor.  He was adopted by his aunt, who didn't want another boy so she decided to pretend he was a girl, and dubbed him "Angela."  As to why (s)he is killing people, I imagine it has something to do with repressed anger and psychological trauma, though this does raise questions of whether the movie is transphobic or not.  I think there's enough psychological damage on Angela to say no, but I'm sure there is a good amount of analysis to be made about this movie based on the ending alone.  There is also strange moment of Angela recalling his/her father being in a homosexual relationship that is triggered by him/her becoming aroused by another boy, which brings questions of of a self-loathing gay subtext to the film.

This movie isn't good, but you can't say it's uninteresting.  This is one of the most fascinating bad movies I've seen in a while, and the way it presents itself puts it on the so-bad-it's-good meter.  Sleepaway Camp is pretty amazing the more I think about it, and something tells me that I'll never forget it.


The Drive-In


We have a celebrity in the house!  And no, Joe Bob doesn't count (sorry Joe Bob!).  It's Angela himself, Felissa Rose!  Joe Bob's bumpers in this episode consist of him interviewing Felissa, and asking her questions based on whatever points we are in the movie.  Felissa has a fairly one-track mind, as a lot of the info she shares are based on what boys she thought were cute and which ones she did or didn't date.  She's also good friends with most of the cast and crew to this day.  She does discuss how one of the reasons she was hired was because her chest didn't fill out yet, making the twist ending more believable and setting up the line "She's a real carpenter's dream!  Flat as a board and needs a screw!"  They also discuss a potential remake that has been announced, in which Felissa wants to play Aunt Martha and Joe Bob wants to play the pedophile.

They don't go into super many details on the ending during most of the film as Joe Bob doesn't want to spoil the surprise, though he stays in silent giddiness as he relates that there is a twist ending.  When they talk about the ending the subject jumps to penises, naturally.  They discuss how the film has more male nudity than female, yet Joe Bob is surprisingly disappointed in how little penis there is in the big reveal.  They discuss the male model that posed for the penis shot at the end, which is some random guy that's been lost to history as Felissa doesn't remember his name.  Joe Bob also poses a theory on the penis having been mutilated in the opening boating accident.

"Was your dick deformed?  That dick looks weird to me."
"It was cold!  I was in the water!  AND I WAS THIRTEEN!"

Darcy (without that giant blonde wig from the previous episode) comes in at the conclusion and plays a mean girl from the movie, and hands Felissa a curling iron (a reference to a kill in the movie), and Felissa fights back...

"Okay new mail girl!  I'm the ORIGINAL male girl!  M-A-L-E!  TAKE THAT!"

But even when Joe Bob's by himself in the intro he keeps us entertained.  He starts out by discussing the transsexual bathroom controversy from a few years ago, and humorously relates that most people have "An Andy Taylor mode and a Barney Fife mode" during it, in reference to The Andy Griffith Show.  Its something that demands to be heard in order to be understood, but Joe Bob definitely has a hilarious point to tell.  The Drive-In Totals are pretty fun this time, with a good amount of "Fus" in the mix, my favorites being "The rare Curling Iron Fu" and "Male Camp Counselors Wearing Gym Shorts So Tight They Look Like Saran Wrap on a Hot Dog...Fu."  Add in the laughably absurd movie, I think there is enough here to make Sleepaway Camp must-see Joe Bob.

Joe Bob's Rating
⭐⭐⭐1/2

Tourist Trap (The Last Drive-In)


Film Year:  1979
Genre:  Horror
Director:  David Schmoeller
Starring:  Chuck Connors, Jocelyn Jones, Jon Van Ness, Robin Sherwood, Tanya Roberts, Dawn Jeffory, Keith McDermott

The Movie


A group of friends break down in the middle of nowhere.  Splitting up in hope of finding help, some of them find a friendly local who is willing to lodge them over night, while others find that there is a madman out at night who captures lost city folk and turns them into human mannequins.

I was pretty confused about what to expect from Tourist Trap when it started, as it just kind of trudged through its opening credit sequence with white text against a black backdrop while the goofiest music you've ever heard for a horror movie plays.  I saw that it was a Charles Band production, so I definitely knew it was going to be something cheesy, though I was a bit surprised at how effective some scenes in Tourist Trap really were.  The obviously limited filmmaking equipment echoes Texas Chain Saw Massacre in a positive way, and a lot of the shots of frozen mannequin grins and scowls are genuinely unnerving.  I was watching this film and thinking to myself "Is it just me, or is this movie pretty decent?"

The film was directed by David Schmoeller, who went on to direct the first installment of the Puppet Master film series.  It also stars former sports star and Rifleman actor Chuck Connors, who is channeling both Gary Busey and Jack Palance with his performance, as well as future Bond girl and That 70's Show MILF Tanya Roberts.  Acting in the film can be a bit uneven, probably due to what seems like a fast production with limited resources.  Though for the most part the film works at the grindhouse level it seems to be going for.

There are a few things that might work against the film, though.  Sometimes the film can remind one of Texas Chain Saw Massacre a bit too unfavorably.  The masked killer in this film resembles Leatherface a bit too much, which begins to make this film feel like a blatant copy.  There's also a scene later on in the film where the killer is killing a woman while explaining what he's doing to her as he does it, which I understand what they're going for but I find myself feeling it would have been more effective if it were done in silence.  The killer also seems to display some strange psychic powers in the film, which may be a bit much but I'm willing to roll with it, but it doesn't explain how he's able to be everywhere at once, since he just kind of pops out in random locations throughout the movie, despite being somewhere else before the scene cut.  The implication of this character being in multiple places at once might be that these are all mannequins he's controlling telepathically, but that opens up another can of plot holes that I'm not willing to get into.

Unless he also has some sort of teleportation power.  Now THAT'S a movie!

The killer's identity is easy to guess, especially when you begin to notice that location continuity isn't on this movie's mind.  Still, Tourist Trap is a pretty fun little romp for those looking for a silly horror flick with little logic.  If it sounds up your alley, give it a look and see if it's your jam.


The Drive-In


Welcome back to the Drive-In!  This is Joe Bob Briggs' third horror hosting gig, after Joe Bob's Drive-In Theater on The Movie Channel and MonsterVision on TNT.  I'd love nothing more than to cover some classic Joe Bob while I'm doing this, but these segments only exist as incomplete, poor quality VHS rips on YouTube today.  I might piece together what I can at some point in the future if I'm inclined, but if you're not familiar with Joe Bob, type his name into YouTube and check out some of his stuff.  He's fantastic.

Here we start his new show on Shudder called The Last Drive-In, probably because it's likely going to be his last.  I wish we could keep Joe Bob around forever, but the man is getting up there.  He still hasn't missed a beat with that lovable, redneck personality!  He relates a story comparing how he gets a TV show every seventeen years, comparing it to the monster in The Beast Within only coming to life every seventeen years.  But Joe Bob says he'll do anything for two hundred bucks, so he's back.  Believe me, it's good to have him back, even if it took seventeen years and two hundred bucks to do so!

Joe Bob likes Tourist Trap very much, praising how they follow the first rule of a horror film by killing early so the audience thinks nobody is safe, but then scolding it for not following the second rule of always showing breasts when it gets a chance, which he professes disappointment when a lakehole swimming scene shows no nudity.  He deducts a half-a-star from his rating for that alone.  He has a lot of info to share about Chuck Connors, who he is a big fan of, and even feels like shaming Stephen King for saying Connors isn't great in the movie.  There's a little bit of talk about how Connors wanted to be "the Boris Karloff of the 80's" and how he didn't get along with star Jocelyn Jones.  Tanya Roberts gets a little bit of discussion as well, including questioning the functionality of her top.  He praises director David Schmoeller, and calls this movie an underrated classic.  However, Joe Bob's funniest quip comes at Schmoeller's expense...

"Schmoeller said one time he loves horror because it's 'cinematic.'  What the holy fuck does that mean?  Yes David, it's cinematic!  It's made with a camera!  Jesus Christ!"

At the end of the episode, we get the first appearance of our new Mail Girl, Darcy (played by adult film actress Diana Prince).  For Darcy's first letter asks if Joe Bob went off the air because he went to jail, which seems to piss Joe Bob off a bit before deflating the rumor and calling it a "misdemeanor."  Joe Bob tells Darcy it's her duty to man Twitter for 24 hours to keep the mail bag up, to which she objects.  For the record, I've seen her tweetstorm when The Last Drive-In is airing, this woman is a trooper.

But the marathon is just getting started.  Pass me a beer and let's see how long it takes for me to pass out!

Joe Bob's Rating
⭐⭐⭐1/2

Saturday, April 6, 2019

401-Space Travelers


Film Year:  1969
Genre:  Science Fiction, Drama
Director:  John Sturges
Starring:  Gregory Peck, Gene Hackman, James Franciscus, Richard Crenna, David Jannsen
MST Season:  4

The Movie

Previously on Mystery Science Theater 3000:
"Why didn't you just show us Marooned?"

Dun-dun-DUNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Marooned you want, and Marooned you shall have.  Albeit a chopped up version by Film Ventures, who got their grubby mitts on it through a deal with Columbia in the early 90's.  With the title changed to the almost irrelevant Space Travelers, this movie tells of three astronauts, played by Gene Hackman, James Franciscus, and Richard Crenna, who are orbiting the Earth from a space station who are trapped in space following engine failure.  NASA Administrator Gregory Peck troubleshoots ways of getting them back home safely.

As slow and casual as this movie it, believe it or not it's supposed to be much, much longer.  The full cut runs over two hours, which is jammed into this ninety minute episode (complete with host segments).  By some miracle the film still feels somewhat complete, and the set-up, plight, and conclusion don't feel too shortchanged.  I'm not entirely sure what's missing here, but I might have to give the unaltered film a looksee at some point to see what all is cut out.

With a star-studded cast that also includes David Jannsen of The Fugitive fame, Space Travelers/Marooned is directed by John Sturges, who helmed such films as Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, The Magnificent Seven, and The Great Escape.  Space Travelers may not be one of his more remembered efforts (if Wikipedia's budget to box office ratio is to be believed, it was quite the bomb), but it's not without its good qualities.  The film lacks good pacing (might be an editing problem with this particular version), but the film is a well-acted portrayal of a scary scenario.  Once the film reaches it's third act it really becomes something compelling, with moral dilemmas, life or death decisions, and last minute danger.  Whether it's worth taking the journey to get there might be up to the viewer.

Space Travelers is the only film ever featured on MST3K to have ever won an Academy Award, of which it won for special effects.  These effects might not hold up to the likes of Gravity or the like, but of the time they're pretty solid (though some blue screen work can be rough).  It's a well-realized movie, with a game cast, and a talented crew.  The movie feels like it's so close to being a genre classic, but misses by just a few inches.  Of course, my opinion could change should I ever see it uncut, which I hope to do some day.



The Episode

In the midst of all those low budget Italian movies and edited together TV episodes, the Film Ventures catalog throws us a curve ball with Space Travelers, which is a big budget movie with genuine talent at the helm.  There is something of a debate as to whether or not the movie is "too good" for MST, though personally I think film quality is beside the point.  While the opening credits definitely say "We'll send him cheesy movies, the worst we can find," that to me is an excuse to set up the premise that allows the format.  Film in general is subjective, and there are quite a few films featured on the show that I think are actually pretty decent, movies that I enjoy more than Space Travelers if I were to add a side point.  But to me watching a movie and watching a riff are two separate experiences.  It's not how bad the movie is that determines whether or not a riff can be made out of it, but rather whether or not you can make something out of it.  Can you make a new experience that is just as enjoyable if not more so than watching the movie by itself?  If the guys who run the show came across this movie and thought maybe they could create something out of it, I'd like to trust them enough to give them a shot.

Unfortunately, it's a swing and a miss.

The problem with Space Travelers isn't that it's too good for MST3K, not to take anything away from the solid production of the film, but rather it doesn't offer much to comment on.  This movie is a lot of people sitting in place, looking angry at computer screens.  As a drama it's interesting, but there are only so many ways you can make that funny.  If Space Travelers were about fifteen minutes long and they squeezed all their best jokes into that, there might be something worth seeing here, but this riff is a very monotonous affair full of pretty good Gregory Peck impersonations but not a lot done with them.  I'd even say that those who get the most out of this episode would probably be MSTies who like the movie itself and have probably seen it several times at their leisure.  If they're familiar with the film and willing to embrace a humorous commentary for it, then they will probably get a kick out of this episode more than most.

The host segments are generally pretty good, offering up some space travel inspiration from the movie.  They discuss space race advancement, let Crow do his Peck impression, and discuss what to do in the case of limited air, just like in the movie (hint:  there is only one person on the Satellite of Love that breathes oxygen).  The Invention Exchange is cute, offering up the Dollaroid (a Polaroid camera that prints your face on a dollar bill) and Facial Tissue (where you can blow your nose on some blowhard).

Space Travelers is something of an interesting side step for the series, as it's not a B-picture by any means and is slower paced and more dramatically inclined than most films on the series.  It feels like an experiment in pushing the format into a new direction, though they feel uncertain and unenthusiastic about the opportunity in front of them.  Could there be a funny riff made out of this movie?  That's hard to say.  What I can plainly see is that this wasn't it.

Not Recommended



The DVD

Shout Factory offered Space Travelers on their Volume XXXII set, with decent audio and video and a batch of bonuses.  First up is an introduction by Frank Conniff, who claims an admiration for the talent involved in the film, though it seems he's not a fan of the film in general but still was uneasy about riffing it.  He claims that they might have riffed it because it was just something different to do.  Following this we have Marooned:  A Forgotten Odyssey, where director/historian Jeff Burr (Leatherface:  Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, Pumpkinhead II:  Blood Wings) discusses the history and making of the film Marooned, which was re-edited into Space Travelers.  Burr gives the film credit where credit is due while questioning whether the film deserved the MST treatment (it probably didn't).  Concluding the disc is a trailer for the film under the Marooned title.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXX DVD Retrospective


Release Date:  July 29, 2014


Features the following episodes:

At long last, the episode that won Mystery Science Theater 3000 a Peabody Award has finally hit DVD.  A glorious disc of Outlaw, one of the most hilarious episodes of the series riffing on one of the most inept movies they've ever riffed!  If you don't own this set, get crackin' and buy it already!  No collection is complete without it!

Oh yeah, there are other episodes here too.  Just none worth saying in the same breath as Outlaw.  That's the big downside to this set, is that there is one great episode worth having and three others that you just get with it and probably won't watch as much.  The best of the rest is probably Projected Man, but that's from lack of competition.  The Black Scorpion is a poor episode that is almost saved by a fun movie while It Lives By Night is for my money one of the worst episodes of the series.  If I were looking to this set on a surface level, I'd be as doom and gloom about the episode selection as I am with Volume 12.  But my eyes keep stopping on Outlaw and I think to myself "But...Outlaw!  I have to have it!"

Average Rating (scale of 1 to 4):  2.25

Audio and video are top marks across the board, while special features keep lovers of the films happy, as we get some decent behind the scenes features on The Black Scorpion, Outlaw, and The Projected Man (It Lives By Night gets shafted).  General historian presentations are provided with Stinger of Death:  Making The Black Scorpion and Shock to the System:  Creating The Projected Man, while Outlaw gets a trio of interviews titled Writer of Gor:  The Novels of John Norman, Director of Gor:  On Set with John "Bud" Cardos, and Producer of Gor:  Adventures with Harry Alan Towers.  Also featured are trailers for The Black Scorpion and The Projected Man.

One may notice there is a general lack of MST related features on this set, so if you're craving some series info you're going to come up disappointed.  The most MST related special feature on the set is a trailer for an independent comedy film called The Frank, starring Frank Conniff in the title role, and featuring Bill Corbett, Mary Jo Pehl, and J. Elvis Weinstein.

The box art is Shout's stock box art for the series, featuring the MST logo in the upper left hand corner against a starry backdrop and the theater seats at the bottom, as the roman numeral "XXX" is painted in red in the center.  Disc art is also the Shout standard, featuring title logos against a starry backdrop.  As always the centerpiece of the art is the individual slim cases on the inside, which feature individual episode art by Steve Vance.  The Black Scorpion features Servo and Crow in a crane being chased by the title beast.  Outlaw has Servo and Crow dressed in Gor clothing being pinned to a wall by swords.  The Projected Man offers Crow as the titular Projected Man, who is chasing Servo in a blonde wig.  It Lives By Night has Servo turning into a bat man (not THE Batman) as Crow, dressed as his wife, flees in terror.  The art is also featured in four mini posters offered in the set.

Disc menus are excellent, as usual, each featuring the Bots in episode related scenarios.  The Black Scorpion is presented as if it were stop motion, as Crow and Servo play around on the bridge of the Satellite of Love as a giant scorpion rises behind them.  Outlaw has Crow and Servo heckling wizard Jack Palance, who has Gypsy as his queen beside him.  The Projected Man offers Crow and Servo luring the titular monster being onto the SOL bridge where they "project" him to death.  It Lives By Night concludes with Crow and Servo hiding with bats on the ceiling of a cave, trying not to spook the main characters of the film who are passing by.

For a deca-release, Volume XXX is fairly disappointing.  There is an unfortunate lack of series related bonus material and the included episodes fall below average.  The only thing about this series that demands it be a part of your collection is the fact that it contains the award winning episode Outlaw, and for the movie connoisseurs out there, the movie related features will definitely demand to be seen.  Little pieces of Volume XXX demand to be owned, but the full package leaves one wanting.  But if you've collected the previous twenty-nine volumes, you're going to pick this one up as well.